Rousseff to face pro-business candidate in Brazil runoff

The election for the presidency of South America_s largest country will now be between the two parties that have controlled the office for almost two decades. Silva of the Brazilian Socialist Party, became the election_s wildcard when she was elevated to the head of her party_s ticket after her running mate died in an August plane crash. At the time, she rose rapidly in public opinion polls and until recently, most Brazilians expected a runoff between Silva and Rousseff.

Rousseff, who represents the Workers_ Party, received 41 percent of the votes, with Neves of the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party taking 34 percent, and Silva, 21 percent.

Expedito Rodrigues de Miranda, 61, a home repairman, said he happily voted for Rousseff on Sudnay and wanted the Workers_ Party to stay in power. Another term for Rousseff would be the fourth for the party, which touts dramatic reductions in extreme poverty through government programs such as the Bolsa Family (Family Purse), a conditional-cash transfer to low-income mothers that requires them to keep their children in school and current on vaccinations.

_My motive (for voting for Rousseff) is because everything is just fine,_ Miranda said. _Twelve years they_ve been there. I don_t have a reason to complain. My salary has gone up 300 percent._

Rousseff_s performance was strongest in the country_s north and northeast, while Neves performed well in the center-west and parts of the south and southeast. Silva only outperformed the two in the small Amazonian state of Acre, her home state, and Pernambuco in Brazil_s northeast, where her running mate Eduardo Campos had been a popular governor until his August death.

Even as Neves came in second, the campaign was dominated Silva_s meteoric rise and fall. From an impoverished family of 11 children and illiterate until age 16, she would have been Brazil_s first president who identifies as black _ this in a country where more than half the population is non-white.

But Silva lost her edge as the election neared and as her campaign looked increasingly erratic to voters. She alienated former supporters on the far left by changing her position on supporting gay marriage after pressure from Evangelical leaders and appealing to banking and business leaders as she mounted a challenge to Rousseff. On the other hand, Silva also was eager to prove that she would not end the Workers_ Party_s social welfare state, which then pushed her away from more conservative Brazilians.

Patricia Caetano, 37, a human resources analyst in Rio de Janeiro, said she was undecided between Neves and Silva until the most recent presidential debate, when Silva proposed a _13th salary_ _ a reference to an extra monthly salary given to workers usually at the end of the year _ to recipients of the Bolsa Fam__lia. Caetano saw the proposal as a needlessly populist bid.

_I think we need real jobs and schools that are actually good,_ she said.

Neves, an economist and former governor of the state of Minas Gerais, is very familiar to Brazilians. He_s the grandson of Tancredo Neves _ the first civilian elected president after its 1964-85 military dictatorship, who then died suddenly of an illness before taking office. Neves worked as his assistant.

Neves_ Brazilian Social Democracy Party, referred to locally as the Tucanos, won two terms from 1995 to 2003 with former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and is regarded as Brazil_s most pro-business party.

With Silva out of the runoff, speculation began immediately over which candidate she would support. Silva was an environment minister in the Workers_ Party government of former President Luiz In__cio Lula da Silva, but had a bitter break with the party when she quit the cabinet in 2008. In 2010. she ran for president as a member of the Green Party.

The race has now come down to the two parties that have controlled the presidency for the past five terms, even a year after Brazilians went to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in anti-government protests. The protesters in 2013 varied in their demands and political stripes, but a central theme was low quality of services, such as public health, education and transportation under governments seen as corrupt and lavishly spending on privileges for elected officials.

For Silva_s voters, who not only supported the candidate but hoped for some sort of viable change in the now-routine Workers_ Party-Tucano politics,_Sunday_s_vote represented a missed opportunity to break with the past.

_We are in a democratic system and the PT [Worker_s Party] would want to be in power for 20 years,_ said Ana Deveza, 56, in a reference to rumors that Lula da Silva would run again in 2018.

Deveza, a teacher, said Silva_s campaign was an opportunity for Brazil to have _new politics_ and _a chance to have turnover._

Miami Herald | BY TAYLOR BARNES

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